The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday June 3rd

UNC building health center in Asheville to combat Western N.C. health care shortage

A Master of Public Health program is one of the many services that will be provided through a new academic health center building that is to open in Asheville through a partnership with the Mountain Area Health Education Center and UNC-Chapel Hill. The building is expected to be completed in spring 2019.
Buy Photos A Master of Public Health program is one of the many services that will be provided through a new academic health center building that is to open in Asheville through a partnership with the Mountain Area Health Education Center and UNC-Chapel Hill. The building is expected to be completed in spring 2019.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Jeff Heck's title. Heck is the CEO and associate dean for the UNC School of Medicine Asheville Campus. The story has been updated with Heck's correct position. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error. 

UNC has partnered with the Mountain Area Health Education Center to construct a new academic health center building located in Asheville. 

The building is expected to be completed in May 2019, said Robert Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost of UNC.  

“MAHEC’s mission is to train the next generation of health care professionals for western North Carolina through quality health care, innovative education and best practice models that can be replicated nationally,” said Dr. Jeff Heck, MAHEC CEO and associate dean for the UNC School of Medicine Asheville Campus. “The vision for an expansion into a health sciences branch campus began about three years ago.”

Blouin said that MAHEC was chosen because it is part of a larger state-funded program called Area Health Education Centers. 

“AHEC is a well-established program, and its mission to provide opportunities for students to learn in diverse areas, particularly rural, less populated areas of the states,” Blouin said. "MAHEC happens to be one of the sites, and Asheville is the home of MAHEC for which educational and service programs are based out of.”

According to a recent annual report published by MAHEC, 16 counties in Western North Carolina are in shortage of primary health care professionals; six of those counties even lack a psychiatrist. 

“The purpose of the building is to improve care and health care education for citizens of the western part of the state, where access to health care is very limited in some of the rural areas,” Heck said. “The goal is to increase the number of health care practitioners who can be trained and who likely would reside and practice in that part of the state.”

Multiple health science schools at UNC have offered significant resources in this cause. 

“If you’re thinking about how do you maximize the health care of patients, it’s to have all the health care practitioners working together,” Blouin said.  “What the state is doing is expanding the scope of the program to add greater interprofessional education to support interprofessional health care models. (The schools of) medicine, pharmacy, public health, along with nursing and dentistry are working together in a highly interdisciplinary environment, and we’re very proud of it.”

The building will house programs such as a new school of medicine and new school of public health, which has recently offered a Masters in Public Health, said Michelle Morgan, director of Marketing and Communications at MAHEC. 

“MAHEC will also include a Department of Psychiatry," Heck said. “Funding from the state has allowed us to grow substantially and add new programs like dentistry.”

While the faculty working at the new building will be affiliated with UNC, other students at MAHEC have also enrolled in residency programs, post-graduation from medical school or pharmacy school, Heck said.

Heck said the UNC health sciences programs enabled MAHEC to train more medical, pharmacy and public health students from local universities, including Western Carolina University and UNC-Asheville. 

“We believe that we will have a sort of pipeline that goes directly from those colleges to those health sciences programs,” Heck said. “Because of the development of health sciences here, we’ll be able to have more teaching practices that are actually out in the most rural communities. And hopefully the students see the joy of practicing in the rural areas.”

university@dailytarheel.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.



Comments

The Daily Tar Heel Women's Tennis Victory Paper

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive